You probably already know that food waste is a pretty big issue these days.
HBO talk show host Jon Oliver shared his outrage over food waste earlier this year (viewer warning: Jon swears a lot).
Europe’s 3rd largest supermarket chain started doing something about food waste by selling – and celebrating – ugly fruit.
Here at home in Chittenden County we’ve seen a surge in action, too. Donations to the VT Foodbank are up 30% (90 tons) year-to-date! People really are excited to do what they can to reduce landfill waste and manage their own impact in a responsible way. Residents are lining up to bring their food scraps to our drop-off composting program, and our backyard composting workshops are consistently packed.
The Vermont legislature unanimously passed Act 148 (Vermont’s Universal Recycling & Composting Law)—when was the last time you heard of any law being passed unanimously??—and businesses are jumping on board, too. If you haven’t seen it yet, we just published a list of restaurants, hotels and other businesses in our county that have committed to stopping food waste.
If you’re as excited about fighting food waste as we are, then these ideas may help you pick out the perfect gift for a friend or family member. Or even better, it may give you an idea for a gift you can make yourself! See the DIY versions of each gift below in gray for homemade alternatives.
(Note: We aren’t endorsing any of these specific products, though we did choose to show only products that had a high customer rating. These are just ideas that we hope will help you find what you’re looking for. )
1. A cookbook for leftovers
Some people among us are blessed with a talent for repurposing old food into new, beautiful, tasty dishes.
Others learned to loathe leftovers because they grew up with a mom who turned second-round dishes into a weekly meal they not-so-affectionately called “Train Wreck.” (I still love you, Mom!)
Sometimes all you need to get a habit going is a little guidance—someone to hold your hand until your own creative juices start flowing. There are a number of “leftover cookbooks” out there that are designed to help you reduce your food waste in an easy and delicious way. Love Your Leftovers gives you a recipe for a main dish, plus 8-10 recipes you can make using the leftovers from that dish.
2. A reusable coffee or tea mug
If you’ve seen our most recent TV ad, you’ll know that paper cups (like coffee cups) aren’t recyclable – they belong in the trash. “Hey!” You might be saying. “Those don’t prevent food waste. It’s the coffee cup that people throw away!” I hear you. But insulated coffee mugs do double duty; they also keep coffee or tea hot much longer than a paper cup does, which prevents someone from tossing their cold coffee down the drain!
3. A food dehydrator
Water is essential to life – and that includes the life of bacteria and mold. One way to keep food from spoiling is to get rid of all of the water inside of it! Banana chips, beef jerky, or dried blueberries for your morning yogurt—dehydrated foods are really easy to make and they last for a very long time. There are tons of creative recipes online that will show you how to use a dehydrator in ways you probably never thought of!
4. A vacuum sealer
Air is another enemy of food preservation, even in the freezer. By removing all of the air from the containers you put your food in, you’ll make it last a lot longer without any risk of freezer burn or ice buildup. A vacuum sealer sucks all of the air out of a plastic bag and seals it shut with a built-in heating element.
5. Fermentation crocks
Fermenting foods is one of the most ancient methods of preserving foods, and it’s incredibly easy. Kimchi, sauerkraut, and pickles are three common fermented foods (though commercial versions are usually made with vinegar, and ultra-pasteurized). As well as making food last longer, it may also make the vitamins and minerals in your food more accessible! All you need to start fermenting are vegetables (and some types of fruit), salt, water (which will often come from the vegetable itself), and a special container that will allow air to escape—but doesn’t let air in. (The fermenting process produces gases that need to get out.) Fermenting crocks allow you to ferment large quantities of vegetables at once, and can keep food from spoiling for up to 18 months!
6. Reusable produce bags
In addition to being just simply wasteful, plastic produce bags don’t allow fruits & veggies to “breathe.” Reusable produce bags are made of a mesh material that allows natural gases to escape from the fruit or vegetable inside—gases that signal the food that it’s time to decay. Allowing the gases to escape lets the fruit or veggie live a longer, more delicious life—particularly in your crisper drawer.
7. Durable food containers
When someone has a variety of container sizes, they’re more likely to have the right size container nearby. And when someone has the right size container nearby, they’re more likely to toss half a tomato into it, rather than into the compost (or – gasp! – the trash). Preserve makes all of their containers out of 100% recycled plastic (and they’re also recyclable), and they make some unique smaller sizes that are perfect for half of an onion, or a handful of nuts. They’re available locally at City Market and Healthy Living. Some companies, like Always Fresh Containers, even produce containers that purportedly increase the lifespan of refrigerated fruits & vegetables by absorbing the gases that cause foods to spoil.
Thanks for reading! Do you have a better gift idea than the ones you see here? Let us know! We’ll add it to the next gift idea list. :)